In Heart Scarab, set more than a year and a half after Gyrfalcon, Shield Captain Bennet’s company is on a planet in imminent danger of being overrun by the Maess. Telnos is an unpleasant little planet, inhabited by religious fanatics in the festering marshlands and unregistered miners running illegal solactinium mines up in the hills. But the Maess want Telnos, and Bennet’s job is to get out as many civilians as he can. The enemy arrives before the evacuation is complete. Caught in a vicious fire fight, Bennet is left behind, presumed dead.
His family is grieving. Joss, his long-term partner, grieves with them; lost, unhappy, remorseful. First Lieutenant Flynn has no official ‘rights’ here. He isn’t family. He isn’t partner or lover.
All he is, is broken.
Number of words: 102,431
This is the second in the Taking Shield series. At the beginning we have some excitement as Bennet’s group tries to remove some locals from a planet before the enemy arrives. Because if you’ve read the first book, you know that the enemy has no feelings and just destroys anything human. But the enemy arrives and attacks and suddenly our hero is lost. For the next half of the book, we get an incredible look into Joss and some into Flynn.
In the first book, we saw who Joss was and I felt a bit sorry for him. In this second novel, the author emphasized his and Bennet’s faults, but before that she truly made me feel for Joss as he suffers and remembers the man he loves. So much so that when things went down toward the end, I wasn’t sure which one I loved or hated most. That was spectacularly good writing. To write two characters who are innately selfish and yet have the reader rooting for them both. I rooted for Joss when the book was in his POV and I hated and yet rooted for Bennet when it was in his POV. Flynn, I’m not sure of yet.
Though I will admit, the twist Butler gave at the end of Bennet being on the other side was a sheer stroke of genius.
And now I’m moving on to book 3. This book was more about relationships than it was the sci-fi stuff, but still excellent writing. 4 stars.